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Letters from the Deutsch-Franzsische Jahrbcher Source: Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, pp. 133-145.

Written: March, May and September 1843; First Published: in Deutsch-Franssiche Jahrbcher, 1844.
http://marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/letters/deutsch-fransosische-letters.htm

These letters written by Marx form part of his correspondence with Ruge at the time of their preparations for publishing the journal Deutsch-Franzsische Jahrbcher, they were published in the journal in the section From the Correspondence of 1843, where letters by Ruge, Bakunin and Feuerbach were also printed. In these letters Marx in fact formulated his revolutionary views on the programme of the journal which went further than the tasks of disseminating abstract philosophical ideas and bourgeois-democratic political views, set by its other editor, Ruge. Marxs letters to Ruge from the Deutsch-Franzsische Jahrbcher were first published in English in the book Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, New York, 1967. Despite considerable organisational and material difficulties (the journal was edited in Paris and printed in Zurich) the editorial board managed to put out the first double issue (No. 1-2) of the Deutsch-Franzsische Jahrbcher at the end of February 1844. The main trend of the journal was determined by Marxs letters and articles (On the Jewish. Question, Contribution to the Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Law. Introduction) and Engels articles (Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, The Condition of England. Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle), which were published in it and were imbued with revolutionary-communist spirit. However, the publication of the journal was discontinued. By its sharp political presentation of material the Deutsch-Franzsische Jahrbcher attracted the attention of the progressive sections of society in Germany, France and other countries but at the same time evoked indignation of the conservative press. On March 10, 1844, the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung wrote: The criticism to which the new Paris journal resorts knows no mercy, in its polemics it disregards all aesthetic standards, and its satirical tone, though it does not stab like a dagger, punches like a huge fist. The Prussian Government considered the political line of the journal extremely dangerous, banned its import to Germany and issued warrants for the arrest of Marx, Ruge, Heine and the other contributors in the event of their coming to Prussia. About two-thirds out of the total of three thousand copies fell into the hands of the police.

Marx to Ruge

On the canal-boat going to D., March 1843

I am now travelling in Holland. As far as I can judge from the Dutch and French newspapers, Germany is sunk deep in the mire and will sink still deeper. I assure you, even if one has no feeling of national pride at all, nevertheless one has a feeling of national shame, even in Holland. The most insignificant Dutchman is still a citizen compared with the greatest German. And the verdict of the foreigners on the Prussian Government! A horrifying unanimity prevails; no one is any longer deceived about the Prussian system and its simple nature. After all, therefore, the new school has been of some use. The mantle of liberalism has been discarded and the most disgusting despotism in all its nakedness is disclosed to the eyes of the whole world. That, too, is a revelation, although one of the opposite kind. It is a truth which, at least, teaches us to recognise the emptiness of our patriotism and the abnormity of our state system, and makes us hide our faces in shame. You look at me with a smile and ask: What is gained by that? No revolution is made out of shame. I reply: Shame is already revolution of a kind; shame is actually the victory of the French Revolution over the German patriotism that defeated it in 1813. Shame is a kind of anger which is turned inward. And if a whole nation really experienced a sense of shame, it would be like a lion, crouching ready to spring. I admit that in Germany even shame is not yet felt; on the contrary, these miserable people are still patriots. But what system is capable of knocking the patriotism out of them if not this ridiculous system of the new cavalier [Frederick William IV]? The comedy of despotism that is being played out with us is just as dangerous for him, as the tragedy once was for the Stuarts and Bourbons. And even if for a long time this comedy were not to be looked upon as the thing it actually is, it would still amount to a revolution. The state is too serious a thing to be turned into a kind of harlequinade. A ship full of fools [19] could perhaps be allowed to drift for quite a time at the mercy of the wind, but it would be driven to meet its fate precisely because the fools would not believe this. This fate is the impending revolution.
Marx to Ruge Cologne, May 1843

Your letter, my dear friend, is a fine elegy, a funeral song [20] that takes ones breath away; but there is absolutely nothing political about it. No people wholly despairs, and even if for a long time it goes on hoping merely out of stupidity, yet one day, after many years, it will suddenly become wise and fulfil all its pious wishes. Nevertheless, you have infected me, your theme is still not exhausted, I want to add the finale, and when everything is at an end, give me your hand, so that we may begin again from the beginning. Let the dead bury their dead and mourn them. On the other hand, it is enviable to be the first to enter the new life alive; that is to be our lot.

It is true that the old world belongs to the philistine. But one should not treat the latter as a bugbear from which to recoil in fear. On the contrary, we ought to keep an eye on him. It is worth while to study this lord of the world. He is lord of the world, of course, only because he fills it with his society as maggots do a corpse. Therefore the society of these lords needs no more than a number of slaves, and the owners of these slaves do not need to be free. Although, as being owners of land and people, they are called lords, in the sense of being preeminent, for all that they are no less philistines than their servants. As for human beings, that would imply thinking beings, free men, republicans. The philistines do not want to be either of these. What then remains for them to be and to desire? What they want is to live and reproduce themselves (and no one, says Goethe, achieves anything more), and that the animal also wants; at most a German politician would add: Man, however, knows that he wants this, and the German is so prudent as not to want anything more. The self-confidence of the human being, freedom, has first of all to be aroused again in the hearts of these people. Only this feeling, which vanished from the world with the Greeks, and under Christianity disappeared into the blue mist of the heavens, can again transform society into a community of human beings united for their highest aims, into a democratic state. On the other hand, people who do not feel that they are human beings become the property of their masters like a breed of slaves or horses. The aim of this whole society is the hereditary masters. This world belongs to them. They accept it as it is and as it feels itself to be. They accept themselves as they are, and place their feet firmly on the necks of these political animals who know of no other function than to be obedient, devoted and attentive to their masters. The philistine world is a political world of animals, and if we have to recognise its existence, nothing remains for us but simply to agree to this status quo. Centuries of barbarism engendered and shaped it, and now it confronts us as a consistent system, the principle of which is the dehumanised world. Hence the most complete philistine world, our Germany, was bound, of course, to remain far behind the French Revolution, which once more restored man; and a German Aristotle who wanted to derive his politics from our conditions would write at the top of it: Man is a social animal that is however completely unpolitical [in contradistinction to the Greek Aristotle who in his Politics called man a political animal Zn politicon.] but he could not explain the state more correctly than has already been done by Herr Zpfl,

the author of Constitutionellen Staatsrechts in Deutschland [Zpfl, Grundsatze des Allgemeinen und Constitutionell-Monarchistischen Staatsrechts]. According to him, the state is a union of families which, we continue, belongs by heredity and property to a most eminent family called the dynasty. The more prolific the families, the happier, it is said, are the people, the greater is the state, and the more powerful the dynasty, for which reason, too, in Prussia, an ordinary despotic state, a prize of 50 imperial talers is awarded for a seventh son. The Germans are such circumspect realists that all their desires and their loftiest thoughts do not go beyond a bare existence, and this reality nothing more is taken into account by those who rule over them. These latter people, too, are realists, they are very far removed from any kind of thoughts and from any human greatness; they are ordinary officers and country squires, but they are not mistaken, they are right; just as they are, they are quite capable of making use of this animal kingdom and ruling over it, for here, as everywhere, ruling and using are a single conception. And when homage is paid to them and they survey the swarming mass of these brainless beings, what is more likely to occur to them than the thought that Napoleon had at the Berezina? It is said of Napoleon that he pointed to the crowd of drowning people below him and exclaimed to his companion: Voyez ces crapauds! [Just look at these toads!] This is probably a fabrication, but it is nonetheless true. Despotisms sole idea is contempt for man, the dehumanised man, and this idea has the advantage over many others of being at the same time a fact. The despot always sees degraded people. They drown before his eyes and for his sake in the mire of ordinary life, from which, like toads, they constantly make their appearance anew. If such a view comes to be held even by people who were capable of great aims, such as Napoleon before his dynastic madness, how can a quite ordinary king in such surroundings be an idealist? The monarchical principle in general is the despised, the despicable, the dehumanised man; and Montesquieu was quite wrong to allege that it is honour [Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois]. He gets out of the difficulty by distinguishing between monarchy, despotism and tyranny. But those are names for one and the same concept, and at most they denote differences in customs though the principle remains the same. Where the monarchical principle has a majority behind it, human beings constitute the minority; where the monarchical principle arouses no doubts, there human beings do not exist at all. Why should someone like the King of Prussia, [Frederick William IV] to whom it has never been demonstrated that his role is problematical, not be guided exclusively by his whims? And when he acts in that way, what is the result? Contradictory intentions? Well, then nothing will come of it. Impotent trends? They are still the sole political reality. Ridiculous and embarrassing situations? There is only one situation which is ridiculous and

only one which is embarrassing, and that is abdication from the throne. So long as whim retains its place, it is in the right. It can be as unstable, senseless and contemptible as it chooses, it is still good enough for ruling a people that has never known any other law but the arbitrary power of its kings. I do not say that a brainless system and loss of respect within the state and outside it will be without consequences, I do not undertake to insure the ship of fools, but I assert: the King of Prussia will remain the man of his time so long as the topsy-turvy world is the real world. As you know, I have given much thought to this man. Already at the time when he still had only the Berliner politische Wochenblatt as his organ, I recognised his value and his role. Already when the oath of allegiance was taken in Knigsberg, he justified my supposition that the question would now become a purely personal one.[21] He declared that his heart and his turn of mind would be the future fundamental law of the realm of Prussia, of his state, and in point of fact, in Prussia the king is the system. He is the sole political person. In one way or another, his personality determines the system. What he does or is allowed to do, what he thinks or what is attributed to him, is what in Prussia the state thinks or does. Therefore the present king has really performed a service by stating this so unambiguously. But the mistake which people made for a time was to attach importance to the desires and thoughts that would be expressed by the king. This could not alter the matter in the slightest: the philistine is the material of the monarchy, and the monarch always remains only the king of the philistines; he cannot turn either himself or his subjects into free, real human beings while both sides remain what they are. The King of Prussia has tried to alter the system by means of a theory which in this form his father [Frederick William III] really did not have. The fate of this attempt is well known. It was a complete failure. This was to be expected. Once one has arrived at the political world of animals, reaction can go no farther, and there can be no other advance than the abandonment of the basis of this world and the transition to the human world of democracy. The old king had no extravagant desires, he was a philistine and made no claim to intellect. He knew that the state of servants and his possession of it required only a prosaic, tranquil existence. The young king was more alert and brighter and had a much higher opinion of the omnipotence of the monarch, who is only limited by his heart and mind. The old ossified state of servants and slaves disgusted him. He wanted to enliven it and imbue it wholly and entirely with his own desires, sentiments and thoughts; and in his state he could demand this, if only it could be brought about. Hence his liberal speeches and the outpourings of his heart. Not dead laws, but the full, vigorous heart of the king should rule all his subjects. He wanted to set all hearts

and minds into motion for the benefit of his own hearts desires and long -cherished plans. A movement did result; but the other hearts did not beat like that of the king, and those over whom he ruled could not open their mouths without speaking about the abolition of the old domination. The idealists, who have the audacity to want to turn men into human beings, spoke out, and while the king wove fantasies in the old German manner, they considered they had the right to philosophise in the new German manner. Of course, this was shocking in Prussia. For a moment the old order of things seemed to have been turned upside-down; indeed things began to be transformed into human beings, there even appeared renowned persons, although the mention of names is not permitted in the Diets. But the servants of the old despotism soon put an end to this un-German activity. It was not difficult to bring about a marked conflict between the desires of the king, who is enthusing about a great past full of priests, knights and feudal serfs, and the intentions of the idealists, who want only the consequences of the French Revolution and therefore, in the final count, always a republic and an organisation of free human beings instead of the system of dead objects. When this conflict had become sufficiently sharp and unpleasant and the hot-tempered king was sufficiently aroused, his servants, who previously had so easily guided the course of affairs, approached him and asserted that he was not acting wisely in inducing his subjects to make useless speeches, and that his servants would not be able to rule this race of vociferous people. In addition, the sovereign of all the posterior-Russians was alarmed by the movement in the minds of the anteriorRussians [Marx ironically calls the Prussians in Latin Borussen, Vorderrussen anterior-Russians, and Nicholas I the sovereign of all the Hinterrussen posteriorRussians] and demanded the restoration of the old tranquil state of affairs. And so the result was a new edition of the old proscription of all the desires and thoughts of people in regard to human rights and duties, that is to say, a return to the old ossified state of servants, in which the slave serves in silence, and the owner of the land and people rules, as silently as possible, simply through a class of well-bred, submissively obedient servants. It is not possible for either of them to say what he wants: the slave cannot say that he wants to become a human being, nor can the ruler say that he has no use for human beings in his country. To be silent, therefore, is the only way out. Muta pecora, prona et ventri oboedientia. [The herd is dumb, prostrate and obedient to its stomach] That is the unsuccessful attempt to abolish the philistine state on its own basis; the result has been to make it evident to the whole world that for despotism brutality is a necessity and humanity an impossibility. A brutal relationship can only be maintained by means of brutality. And now I have finished with our common task, that of taking a close look at the philistine and his state. You will not say that I have had too high an opinion of the present time; and if, nevertheless, I do not despair of it, that is only because it is precisely the desperate situation which fills me with hope. I am not

speaking of the incapacity of the masters and of the indifference of the servants and subjects who let everything happen just as God pleases although both together would already suffice to bring about a catastrophe. I simply draw your attention to the fact that the enemies of philistinism, in short, all people who think and who suffer, have reached an understanding, for which previously the means were altogether lacking, and that even the passive system of reproduction of the subjects of the old type daily enlists recruits to serve the new type of humanity. The system of industry and trade, of ownership and exploitation of people, however, leads even far more rapidly than the increase in population to a rupture within present-day society, a rupture which the old system is not able to heal, because it does not heal and create at all, but only exists and consumes. But the existence of suffering human beings, who think, and thinking human beings, who are oppressed, must inevitably become unpalatable and indigestible to the animal world of philistinism which passively and thoughtlessly consumes. For our part, we must expose the old world to the full light of day and shape the new one in a positive way. The longer the time that events allow to thinking humanity for taking stock of its position, and to suffering mankind for mobilising its forces, the more perfect on entering the world will be the product that the present time bears in its womb.
Marx to Ruge Kreuznach, September 1843

I am glad that you have made up your mind and, ceasing to look back at the past, are turning your thoughts ahead to a new enterprise.[22] And so to Paris, to the old university of philosophy absit omen! [May it not be an ill omen] and the new capital of the new world! What is necessary comes to pass. I have no doubt, therefore, that it will be possible to overcome all obstacles, the gravity of which I do not fail to recognise. But whether the enterprise comes into being or not, in any case I shall be in Paris by the end of this month,[23] since the atmosphere here makes one a serf, and in Germany I see no scope at all for free activity. In Germany, everything is forcibly suppressed; a real anarchy of the mind, the reign of stupidity itself, prevails there, and Zurich obeys orders from Berlin. It therefore becomes increasingly obvious that a new rallying point must be sought for truly thinking and independent minds. I am convinced that our plan would answer a real need, and after all it must be possible for real needs to be fulfilled in reality. Hence I have no doubt about the enterprise, if it is undertaken seriously.

The internal difficulties seem to be almost greater than the external obstacles. For although no doubt exists on the question of Whence, all the greater confusion prevails on the question of Whither. Not only has a state of general anarchy set in among the reformers, but everyone will have to admit to himself that he has no exact idea what the future ought to be. On the other hand, it is precisely the advantage of the new trend that we do not dogmatically anticipate the world, but only want to find the new world through criticism of the old one. Hitherto philosophers have had the solution of all riddles lying in their writing-desks, and the stupid, exoteric world had only to open its mouth for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into it. Now philosophy has become mundane, and the most striking proof of this is that philosophical consciousness itself has been drawn into the torment of the struggle, not only externally but also internally. But, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be. Therefore I am not in favour of raising any dogmatic banner. On the contrary, we must try to help the dogmatists to clarify their propositions for themselves. Thus, communism, in particular, is a dogmatic abstraction; in which connection, however, I am not thinking of some imaginary and possible communism, but actually existing communism as taught by Cabet, Dzamy, Weitling, etc. This communism is itself only a special expression of the humanistic principle, an expression which is still infected by its antithesis the private system. Hence the abolition of private property and communism are by no means identical, and it is not accidental but inevitable that communism has seen other socialist doctrines such as those of Fourier, Proudhon, etc. arising to confront it because it is itself only a special, one-sided realisation of the socialist principle. And the whole socialist principle in its turn is only one aspect that concerns the reality of the true human being. But we have to pay just as much attention to the other aspect, to the theoretical existence of man, and therefore to make religion, science, etc., the object of our criticism. In addition, we want to influence our contemporaries, particularly our German contemporaries. The question arises: how are we to set about it? There are two kinds of facts which are undeniable. In the first place religion, and next to it, politics, are the subjects which form the main interest of Germany today. We must take these, in whatever form they exist, as our point of departure, and not confront them with some ready-made system such as, for example, the Voyage en Icarie. [Etienne Cabet, Voyage en Icarie. Roman philosophique et social.] Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form. The critic can therefore start out from any form of theoretical and practical consciousness and from

the forms peculiar to existing reality develop the true reality as its obligation and its final goal. As far as real life is concerned, it is precisely the political state in all its modern forms which, even where it is not yet consciously imbued with socialist demands, contains the demands of reason. And the political state does not stop there. Everywhere it assumes that reason has been realised. But precisely because of that it everywhere becomes involved in the contradiction between its ideal function and its real prerequisites. From this conflict of the political state with itself, therefore, it is possible everywhere to develop the social truth. Just as religion is a register of the theoretical struggles of mankind, so the political state is a register of the practical struggles of mankind. Thus, the political state expresses, within the limits of its form sub specie rei publicae, [as a particular kind of state] all social struggles, needs and truths. Therefore, to take as the object of criticism a most specialised political question such as the difference between a system based on social estate and one based on representation is in no way below the hauteur des principes. [Level of principles] For this question only expresses in a political way the difference between rule by man and rule by private property. Therefore the critic not only can, but must deal with these political questions (which according to the extreme Socialists are altogether unworthy of attention). In analysing the superiority of the representative system over the social-estate system, the critic in a practical way wins the interest of a large party. By raising the representative system from its political form to the universal form and by bringing out the true significance underlying this system, the critic at the same time compels this party to go beyond its own confines, for its victory is at the same time its defeat. Hence, nothing prevents us from making criticism of politics, participation in politics, and therefore real struggles, the starting point of our criticism, and from identifying our criticism with them. In that case we do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the worlds own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to. The reform of consciousness consists only in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in awakening it out of its dream about itself, in explaining to it the meaning of its own actions. Our whole object can only be as is also the case in Feuerbachs criticism of religion to give religious and philosophical questions the form corresponding to man who has become conscious of himself.

Hence, our motto must be: reform of consciousness not through dogmas, but by analysing the mystical consciousness that is unintelligible to itself, whether it manifests itself in a religious or a political form. It will then become evident that the world has long dreamed of possessing something of which it has only to be conscious in order to possess it in reality. It will become evident that it is not a question of drawing a great mental dividing line between past and future, but of realising the thoughts of the past. Lastly, it will become evident that mankind is not beginning a new work, but is consciously carrying into effect its old work. In short, therefore, we can formulate the trend of our journal as being: selfclarification (critical philosophy) to be gained by the present time of its struggles and desires. This is a work for the world and for us. It can be only the work of united forces. It is a matter of a confession, and nothing more. In order to secure remission of its sins, mankind has only to declare them for what they actually are.

19 This figure of speech was used by analogy with the satirical poem of the German humanist Sebastian Brant, Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools), published in 1494. In a letter to Ruge in May 1843 Marx repeated this metaphor (see p. 139 of this volume). 20 In a letter to Marx written from Berlin in March 1843, Ruge complained about the absence of any signs of revolutionary ferment in Germany, about the spirit of servility, submission to despotism and allegiance that had been prevalent in the country for many years. This letter was published in the section From the Correspondence of 1843 in the Deutsch-Franzsische Jahrbcher. 21 Marx alludes to the patronage and support which Frederick William IV, while still Crown Prince, extended to the journal Berliner politisches Wochenblatt (1831-41) which was the mouthpiece for the ideas of feudal reaction and conservative romanticism. The coronation of Frederick William IV, which took place on June 7, 1840, in Knigsberg, was surrounded with the pageantry of medieval knighthood. 22 In a letter to Marx in August 1843 (published in the Deutsch-Franzsische Jahrbcher) Ruge informed him of the final decision to have the journal published in Paris. Earlier there had been no unanimity on this point, besides Paris other places had been suggested, in particular Switzerland and Strasbourg. 23 Marxs departure for Paris was delayed. He arrived there with Jenny at the end of October 1843.